Acclaimed East Austin taqueria risks closure amid bureaucratic battle
What started as a simple electrical issue has become a crisis for one of Austin's most respected restaurants. Now, Nixta Taqueria is asking for public support while it tries to weather a loss of businesses.
The troubles stem from a power disconnection on August 16. Though owners Sara Mardanbigi and Edgar Rico were first told the issue would be a temporary inconvenience, the City of Austin now requires a full site plan before operations resume.
"We were told it was going to be an easy-ish fix, but it has now escalated to a place we could have never imagined," said the couple via a statement. "What is generally a 24-hour repair that would have cost around $10,000 has now ballooned to a three-to-six-month project that will require upwards of $100,000, the displacement of our team, and a shell of what our restaurant operations are."
Nixta opened in October 2019 to almost immediate acclaim, including a Best New Restaurant nod from Food & Wine. In 2022, chef Edgar Rico brought home the Emerging Chef medal from the James Beard Awards. It was an enviable honor for an unassuming eatery built without outside investors.
Almost immediately, however, the young Nixta was faced with unprecedented challenges. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it shifted gears — selling its nixtamalized tortillas at Salt & Time and feeding the community as the pilot location of the ATX Free Fridge Project. Then, it endured a two-week closure following the 2021 Texas freeze and power crisis.
Mardanbigi and Rico hope to pivot their business again through a GoFundMe campaign. Money raised will pay for structural and permitting expenses, payroll, and an operational shift. At press time, the fundraiser has exceeded $35,000 of an $80,000 goal. The public donor list contains some of the most notable names in Austin food, a testament to Nixta's impact on the local culinary community.
While the brick-and-mortar cannot welcome guests, the owners are considering several alternate service models. Among the ideas floated on an Instagram post are a candlelit version of Nixta's omakase, Flor Xakali; an onsite food truck; and a series of pop-ups. An event at La Barbecue on August 27 is already in the works.
CultureMap has reached out to Nixta Taqueria for more details.